What Do I Need To Be Saved From?

We are all capable of evil. From the faint thought tinged with disdain to a pre-meditated act of murder, circumstances, environmental factors, self-serving motives, and fear spawn evil thoughts from the heads and evil deeds from the hands of all of us on a daily basis. This much is human nature and it originated in a garden where people were given the opportunity to choose for themselves.

Without a moral standard, what can be considered immoral? The presence in our culture of horrendous acts, scared people, and hate-filled words, and our collective dislike for such things, is a clear indication that both good and bad exist in this world.

Much like gravity’s pull, sin has a profound affect on our daily lives, whether we realize it or not. Without the righteousness of God (manifested in the life of Jesus) serving as a guide, the persistent pull of humankind’s sin nature will drive each of us into the ground.

Being “saved” (as much as I dislike the overused cliche) is all about realizing our individual inabilities to resist engaging in people-hurting, sinful activities, and, instead, humbly turning to Jesus for a better answer and a real standard for living

As long as people fail to live their lives for God, they will be living for themselves and people living for themselves can only be certain of one thing: death.

Building Bridges Instead Of Burning Them

I recently came across another blogger’s post concerning abortion (a topic I don’t usually address on my own) and it occurred to me that there is a real need to shift the focus of the conversation. I will state that I would have to consider myself pro-life, but, I haven’t been the kind of person to picket at an abortion clinic or to criticize a woman in the midst of her dilemma. In my opinion there is a real need for the Christian community to invest its efforts in publicizing adoption as an alternative. Christ instructed us to love others as we love ourselves. He instructed us to be proactive. We need to let those considering abortion know that there is a profoundly positive alternative. As someone who was adopted soon after birth, I can wholeheartedly state that adoption is a very legitimate, responsible, and life-respecting option for someone who is pregnant, but, feels that raising a child isn’t a possible option for them.

My wife is due to give birth to our second child any minute now (literally) and our plan is to adopt our next child. We don’t know who our next child will be or what kind of adoption it will be (international or domestic, open or closed), but, we are hopeful. I know others who are also looking to adopt as well.

Bethany Christian Services Adoption Agency

Adopting.org

Shaohannah’s Hope

An extension on the topic of abortion from author Brennan Manning:

How I treat my brothers and sisters from day to day, whether they be Caucasian, African, Asian, or Hispanic; how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street; how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike; how I deal with ordinary people in their ordinary unbelief on an ordinary day will speak the truth of who I am more poignantly that the pro-life sticker on the bumper of my car. We are not for life simply because we are warding off death. We are sons and daughters of the Most HIgh and are maturing in tenderness to the extent that we are for others – all others – to the extent that no human flesh is strange to us, to the extent that we can touch the hand of another in love, to the extent that for us there are no “others.” -DEVOTIONS FOR RAGAMUFFINS, Pp.288

Childlike

My four-year-old daughter has a habit of picking up rocks from the ground and then giving them to people as gifts. So, it wasn’t a surprise the other day when she came home from daycare with a handful of rocks. This time, however, the rocks weren’t stones that she picked up from the ground. Instead, it turned out that she had taken from another child’s cubby. I spoke to her about the fact that taking somebody else’s things without permission is a sin according to the ten commandments while she sat in time out. The next morning she woke up and, while cuddling with me in the chair, the first subject she talked about was wanting to give the rocks back to Miranda at daycare. I then suggested that she might want to pray to Jesus for forgiveness for taking the rocks. Her voice started to quiver and crack as she said, “Ok,” and proceeded to pray to Jesus for forgiveness for taking the rocks. When she finished I assured her that Jesus has forgiven her, that he was happy that she prayed for forgiveness, and that I was proud of her.

Admittedly, as an adult the concept of God and Christ can seem tangential and abstract at times. The real, visible impact that sin and redemption had on Julia that morning was a breath of fresh air for my life faith and it lent evidence to the words of Christ found in Matthew 18:3:

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Hypocrite

I feel like I’ve been caught in a slow motion reel lately. Kind of like trying to steer a car with a horribly loose steering mechanism. I see the scenery pass me by and I know that I should have turned back there, but, I can’t seem to change the direction of the car.

I’ve become more aware, lately, of the concept of hypocrisy. My life is tinged with its scent. Though, I do not proclaim verbally that I am any better off than anyone else, the default mental stance that I take often indicates the presence of my subconscious hypocrite.

Intellectually I know that the goal is to have consistency between my thoughts, my words, and my deeds. It seems, though, that when I get one of the three on track, the other two come unglued. On a good day maybe its just one that comes undone, but, still I fall short.

I can’t seem to get over the fact that the truth is right there for my eyes to read in black and white, but, that the devotional-procrastinating, lazy, sensation-driven hypocritical sinner in me wins every day.

I thank God that the sinner’s fall has been obliterated by the present, risen Jesus.

Fear and Forgetfulness

Fear and forgetfulness divert my steps causing me to stumble to my knees
Insecurity was the seed that bled my confidence dry
Teaching me to stay cowered in the trapping torment of the bars that I built

There are times, though, when I fly too high
Like Icarus, I think that the plan has gone off without a hitch and I soar
Until the heat of the sun melts my veneer revealing, through my own rancorous words, a startled and calloused soul

I forgot who I am, you see
My overinflated self-perception sent me flying high for a time
But, now my craft is tangled in the wires and I hang here helpless, but, to accept His grace

Rich Young Ruler

All the wisdom necessary to unlock my soul,
But, my feet are fixed in cement
The young, rich ruler has taken residence in this fragile jar
It was once filled with prodigal clay
Too proud to yield the the truth that permeates their guilt-inducing pleas
My comfort has not left me blind,
But, instead inclined me to ignore the least of these
In doing so,
I ignore Him
And become poor
Again

Luke 18:18-29

18A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 19“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[b]

 21“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

 23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

 26Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

 27Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

 28Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

 29“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

 Matthew 25:31-46

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Oh My God

A profound song by Jars Of Clay with a painfully real focus:

 

Oh my God, look around this place
Your fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone
Flights of grace, and future falls
In present pain
All fools say, “Oh my God”

Oh my God, Why are we so afraid?
We make it worse when we don’t bleed
There is no cure for our disease
Turn a phrase, and rise again
Or fake your death and only tell your closest friend
Oh my God.

Oh my God, can I complain?
You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon your grief
Weddings, boats and alibis
All drift away, and a mother cries

Liars and fools; sons and failures
Thieves will always say
Lost and found; ailing wanderers
Healers always say
Whores and angels; men with problems
Leavers always say
Broken hearted; separated
Orphans always say
War creators; racial haters
Preachers always say
Distant fathers; fallen warriors
Givers always say
Pilgrim saints; lonely widows
Users always say
Fearful mothers; watchful doubters
Saviors always say

Sometimes I cannot forgive
And these days, mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep
While I lay, I dream we’re better,
Scales were gone and faces light
When we wake, we hate our brother
We still move to hurt each other
Sometimes I can close my eyes,
And all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,
What makes me so badly bent?
We all have a chance to murder
We all feel the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the thunder

Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give
Babies underneath their beds
Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,
All the comforts of cathedrals
All the cries of thirsty children – this is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers – this is our greatest offense

Oh my God
Oh my God